What’s Happening in Italy?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen many of us think of Italy, we fantasize about the good life, la dolce vita. For some of us, it’s the cuisine: others are attracted to the ‘Italian house in a village’ fantasy. Historians love to seek out the layers of history seen in every region.  For many, like myself, it is a love affair with the language inextricably entwined with Italian history and culture.

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Midst this romantic ‘outsiders’ view of Italian life stands an awful ongoing problem. Youth unemployment, which applies to those aged between 15 and 29,  now stands at 49% nationally and 60% in the south.
Many try to emigrate. Italy is experiencing a “fuga dei cervelli” or brain drain.

‘Last year, some 44,000 Italians requested a National Insurance Number in the UK alone, more than 80 per cent of them aged 34 or less. And yet the UK is the fifth largest European emigration point from Italy with Germany, Switzerland, France and Belgium receiving more.’

My young Italian visitors feel that Italy is a sinking ship. Those who attempt to migrate to Australia face a rigorous process, and despite their training, skills and English language ability, find it almost impossible. When they return to Italy, they get by and make do,
often by continuing to work in the family business, or spruiking outside department stores for a few euro, their degrees and untested professional training slowly fading into the background, becoming increasingly obsolete.

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‘According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) 2013 report on well being, Italians placed their own happiness at about 5.6, lower than the OECD average of 6.6 – and only just above that of Russians.’

Back streets of Barga
Back streets of Barga

So when you think of Italy, its wonderful architecture, glorious art and history, the fashionable streets of Florence, Milano and Lucca, the wine, food, and people, spare a thought for the 49% of young people who cannot work. The effect, in the long-term, on Bell’Italia is a disaster.

I have extracted some facts from this excellent article, which can be read in full here.  http://www.smh.com.au/national/joblessness-in-italy-no-country-for-young-men-20141007-10rfb5.html#ixzz3HToI1LW9

 

38 thoughts on “What’s Happening in Italy?”

    1. Unemployment is still high in the north. The young people who visit here are all from around Milano and Padova. I think the actuality of unemployment is often hidden from the visitor.

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  1. These stats are shocking, and stats never reflect the true impact on the people, but I suspect they are no worse off than Portugal or Spain or Greece. Countries with an endemic black economy and corrupt politicians will always lag behind economically. We all whinge about taxes, but they keep us on an even keel.

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    1. It is true that Italy is experiencing a similar problem to that of the countries you mention. The effect on the national psyche is something to consider. These young people have not been a part of this corruption and tax avoidance. They feel they have no voice or future. It is a picture in strong juxtaposition with the Italy of our fantasies.

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  2. That’s very depressing. I’ve heard that in lots of countries the youth are graduating from universities with incredible degrees yet there’s just no work for them when they graduate. Sadly, it’s a problem not just unique to Italy xx

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  3. Francesca, this is so sad. I’ve read similar things about the youth in Greece, which I believe is one of the most highly educated countries – so many of their young people with postgraduate degrees struggle to find work. As the mother of a new graduate, I know that the situation is getting very hard here too – we can’t really afford to sit back and pat ourselves on the back and be complacent!

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  4. Francesca I have read your post with great interest. while in the south of Italy we definitely spoke to many young people in the tourism industry who said they had to work like mad for 6 months because at the end of the season there would be no work for half of the year. I agree that we the tourists are quite immune as we soak up the beauty and history of Italy. What do you think is the solution? What role can tourism play in the recovery?

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  5. You see this everywhere – just under the surface of that fabulous art and architecture that Italy shows to the world. Yes, it is very sad for the youth. It is the same (if not worse) in Greece. However, to look on the bright side, one of my husband’s ex-students (who is Italian) is now in an Italian scheme in higher academia to reverse the “brain drain”. She is now in Rome, teaching and researching in her own country rather than in Oxford where she had been before. A drop in the ocean, but something nonetheless.

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    1. Yes, I would say a very small drop. Nice, but rare. I suppose it is only natural that an Italian should be working in an academic position in Italy rather than Oxford. My dear young friends aren’t so fortunate. They often sound desperate and bitter, They can’t begin their lives- they are locked into permanent childhood in many ways,wondering when their lives will begin. So many young people with their lives on hold. The 50 million tourists per year do help the economy, Is Italy at risk of becoming a kind of Italian Disneyland, not unlike the Venice of today?

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  6. This is very sad, and alarming as it seems to be the higher end of the western world haves vs have nots, not to mention the western world vs third world haves and have nots… I see it too, to an extent, as you would have, even in Australia between metropolitan and rural areas.
    On another note, I understand the desire for university grads to gain work relevant to their studies. If they can’t it’s a loss to all as no-one benefits from their learning, and study is simply a means delaying them from adding to the unemployment stats rather than creating jobs in real terms.
    What has also been lost is training and jobs for people just out of school, like apprenticeships and traineeships. For instance, in the G.O.’s construction world, there are less and less people to do unskilled, semi-skilled work.
    There are so many, too many, factors behind this in Australia and overseas. And, as a society in some ways so-called progress is sending us backwards…

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  7. I agree Ella, Many graduate courses are time fillers, with post graduate courses becoming necessary steps to enter any area of work. Unskilled and semi skilled work is seen as undesirable by the middle classes of the western World. And there are so many factors at play, it is hard to sum up all these issues in a brief post- except for the scale of the problem in Italy, Youth unemployment at 50% (not counting hidden unemployment) affects the whole fabric of society for a long time. At 29, I had been married for 10 years, had two children, been overseas, worked teaching for 6 years,finished a post grad, worked as an examiner, bought a house and so on- my life had begun, I was a tax payer,an adult, an independent member of society. These people can’t begin. They breed late, if at all, they continue living at the parental home far too long, and so on.
    It’s odd, but one of my young Italian friends did his four year job training as a surveyor/drafting, Because he learnt on the job, ie through a traineeship, his credentials aren’t recognised here- one needs a degree.
    My son works in the construction industry. He is a brick layer, He has been forced to move to Darwin for work, as construction work is too volatile here. He also finds it much easier to work in a warmer environment. His wife and children wait for him here in Melbourne. I worry about how he will manage physically as he gets older.
    I guess I wrote the post re Italy’s woes, because not many people see the reality in Italy, they just see the romanticised veneer. It is in Italy’s interests, as a nation, to keep this fantasy alive in order to continue to attract 50 million visitors a year,

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  8. It’s really heartbreaking, isn’t it… I have a few cousins who’ve made the move to Australia from Italy now. Where they were facing unemployment and impossible living conditions back home, they’ve walked into decently paying jobs almost immediately here in Melbourne, which they’re thrilled about, and can’t imagine making the move back home permanently now they’ve seen how the other side lives!

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  9. They are so lucky Jess. Having family here helps a lot. Many Italians love the Australian lifestyle and especially Melbourne, with an inbuilt Italo-Australiana community. Sadly, the immigration process is quite tough. I would love to see more Italians accepted here, especially now that the older Italians are slowly parting for ‘paradiso’.

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      1. well I really never realized this = I mean I know here in the States we have all kinds of gunk, and I know Spain, Greece, and a few other countries, but did not realize Italy did too – even though it makes sense.

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  10. That is too depressing for those young ones with nothing to look forward too. And now Australia has effectively closed it’s doors unless you have a suitcase (or two) full of cash the options are getting smaller. Greece has grabbed the headlines I guess but it’s the same story across Southern Europe.

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  11. This is really scary – we’re rising in unemployment here too. Young people have a tough time. Society must change this – and fast – or the disaster will be complete. If they go unemployed for too long it’s much harder to be a good worker once you get a job.

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  12. Un ringraziamento a Francesca e a tutti coloro che hanno commentato questo post dimostrando la loro solidarietà a tutti noi giovani italiani.
    Purtroppo questa è la storia drammatica di una nazione che non cresce e non riesce a trovare una svolta per rilanciarsi.
    L’Italia è un paese meraviglio che potrebbe vivere di turismo e di export perché ricco di storia, arte, architettura, paesaggi, prodotti gastronomici e non, ma anche di persone con grandi idee.
    Purtroppo però non sempre siamo capaci di valorizzare tutto quel che abbiamo e anche quando vorremmo, la burocrazia italiana lo impedisce.
    L’attuale governo continua a promettere grandi riforme per rinnovare il paese, ma è esso stesso rallentato dalla macchina burocratica dello Stato e da alcune caste sociali che non voglio rinunciare ai loro privilegi.
    Viviamo nel paese delle grandi promesse mai mantenute. Abbiamo un governo e un primo ministro nominati grazie agli accordi di palazzo di cui è ancora una volta complice Berlusconi (un condannato) ed essi hanno l’arroganza di credere di aver l’appoggio di tutti gli Italiani.
    La diminuzione delle tasse si è rivelata l’esatto opposto, per di più con applicazione retroattiva. I diritti dei lavoratori vengono calpestati come se nulla fosse nel nome di una maggiore flessibilità del mercato del lavoro e i sindacati politicizzati non reagiscono. Oggi si discute sulla riforma del lavoro che tra le tante cose, prevede la modifica dell’art.18 dello Statuto dei lavoratori (esso regola la tutela del lavoratore in caso di licenziamento illegittimo) come se fosse questo articolo ad impedire la creazione di nuovi posti di lavoro perché “spaventerebbe” gli investitori esteri; ma ormai le aziende che volevano licenziare l’hanno già fatto.
    In Italia è sempre più difficile andare in pensione e se i più vecchi non vanno in pensione, i giovani non possono sostituirli nel loro lavoro.
    Ogni giorno si parla di nuove inchieste giudiziarie su presunti corrotti o corruttori, soldi pubblici che vengono sprecati, opere di manutenzione che non vengono effettuate e tanto altro che nuoce al Bel Paese.
    “Bel Paese?” vi chiederete. Personalmente posso solo dirvi che nonostante quello che accade e la mia mancanza di fiducia nell’attuale governo, non ho perso la speranza di vedere un’Italia migliore perché anche se abbiamo tanti problemi e tante cose che non funzionano, siamo ancora in grado di mostrare le nostre bellezze e potenzialità.
    Un saluto e un ringraziamento a tutti voi amici Australiani
    Alberto

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  13. A quick translation of Alberto’s thoughts, a young man living in the North of Italy:

    Many thanks to Francesca and all those who have commented on this post showing their solidarity to all of us young Italians.
    Unfortunately, this is the dramatic story of a nation that is not growing and can not find a way to re-launch itself.
    Italy is a marvelous country which could live off tourism and exports because it is rich in history, art, architecture, landscape, food products but also people with great ideas.
    Unfortunately we are not always able to exploit all that we have and when we would like, the Italian bureaucracy prevents it.
    The current government continues to promise great measures to reform the country, but is hampered by the bureaucratic machine of the State and certain castes or classes who do not want to give up their privileges.
    We live in the land of the great promises never kept. We have a government and a prime minister appointed thanks to the ‘palace’ which is also an accomplice to Berlusconi (a convict), and they have the arrogance to believe that he had the support of all Italians.
    The tax cuts turned out to be the exact opposite, for more with retrospective application. Workers’ rights are being trampled on as if nothing had happened in the name of greater flexibility of the labor market and trade unions do not react. Today we discuss the reform of labor among other things, providing for the amendment of article 18 of the Statute of Workers (it regulates the protection of the worker in the event of dismissal) as if this article was to prevent the creation of new work positions. Why “scare” foreign investors? But now companies that want to fire have already done so.
    In Italy, it is increasingly difficult to retire and if those who are old enough to retire are not replaced by young people in their work.
    Every day we talk about new judicial investigations into alleged corruption, public money being wasted, maintenance works that are not carried out- that and much more that is detrimental to the Bel Paese.
    “Beautiful Country?” You ask. Personally, I can only tell you that despite what happens and my lack of confidence in the government, I have not lost hope of seeing a better Italy because even though we have so many problems and so many things that do not work, we are still able to show our beauty and potential.

    Greetings and thanks to all of you Australian Friends

    Alberto

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  14. Grazie Alberto per la tua discussione pensierosa e appassionata delle afflizioni di fronte l’Italia di oggi. Con i giovani come te, che sono così articolati in queste cose, c’è speranza di miglioramento.
    I turisti non vedono mai o leggono di questi problemi. Credono che gli italiani viviate in un mondo idilliaco e quando vedono i giovani distendono in piazza, assumono sono tutti gli studenti. Abbiamo sempre sentito la notizia sporca di Berlusconi, ma ora che il condannato non è così pubblico, sentiamo poco della corruzione endemica che afflige il paese.

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